Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Nintendo Classic Mini: SNES with Star Fox 2



Many video game enthusiasts (myself included) missed out on the Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) due to severe stock shortages last November.

So, when the company announced it was following up with the Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) this September. I was determined to secure a pre-order from Amazon.co.uk. The 16-bit console represents peak Nintendo.

The successor to the NES captured my imagination whilst flicking through the pages of defunct games magazine Mean Machines. The sleek-looking console was released in its native Japan in 1990 with Super Mario World, F-Zero and Pilotwings. When the machine reached UK shores in 1992 it did not disappoint. Featuring Super Mario World as a pack-in, the 16-bit powerhouse had pride of place under the TV that Christmas. Super Mario World and Super Mario 64 remain my favourite franchise installments.

The "SNES", as it was pronounced on Bad Influence! a weekly tech magazine show hosted by Andy Crane and Violet Berlin in the early 1990s, introduced me to the wonders of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. A game I treasure to this day.

Whilst last year's NES included 30 games, the SNES will feature 21 and it represents a stellar genre line-up including the unreleased Star Fox 2:

Contra III: The Alien Wars
Donkey Kong Country
EarthBound
Final Fantasy III
F-Zero
Kirby Super Star
Kirby's Dream Course
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Mega Man X
Secret of Mana
Star Fox
Star Fox 2
Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
Super Castlevania IV
Super Ghouls'n Ghosts
Super Mario Kart
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Super Mario World
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
Super Metroid
Super Punch-Out!!

From ALIEN³ to Super Star Wars. Nintendo's console never failed to delight, and I took my machine to university where it played genial host to Mario Kart tournaments with housemates and friends until the PlayStation was launched in 1995. Without the SNES there would be no PlayStation. Sony's console began life as an aborted CD-ROM add-on. The rest is gaming history.

In a statement to USgamer, Nintendo said: "We aren't providing specific numbers, but we will produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.

"Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Super NES Classic Edition is currently planned to ship from 29th September until the end of calendar year 2017. At this time, we have nothing to announce regarding any possible shipments beyond this year."

Pre-orders sold out within minutes on Monday. I secured mine after following a link on Eurogamer.

Did you manage to pre-order a Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo? Which games are you excited for? Is it bittersweet because of stock shortages? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Jason Isaacs as Captain Lorca in Star Trek: Discovery



Here's a first look at Jason Isaacs as Captain Lorca in Star Trek: Discovery courtesy of the fine folks at EW.

The upcoming prequel series is set ten years before the original series and begins airing on CBS All Access on 24th September. Netflix will stream the series outside the US sometime thereafter.

Each episode has a purported budget of $6-7 million dollars and is a big gamble for the streaming network. However, Star Trek: Discovery maybe able to reach a mainstream audience much like the rebooted film franchise. The partnership with Netflix can only be a plus for the fledgling series.

The unaired series has been accused of being too diverse by some fans.

“Well, I would encourage them to key into the essence and spirit of Star Trek that has made it the legacy it is — and that’s looking across the way to the person sitting in front of you and realising you are the same, that they are not separate from you, and we are all one,” Sonequa Martin-Green told Entertainment Weekly.

“That’s something Star Trek has always upheld and I completely believe that is why it’s been a mainstay in society in the hearts of so many people for so many decades,” she added. “I would encourage them to look past their opinions and social conditioning and key into what we’re doing here — which is telling a story about humanity that will hopefully bring us all together.”

Diversity and inclusion has always been a hallmark of the Star Trek franchise. Star Trek's creator Gene Roddenberry was a pioneer.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Ron Howard to direct Han Solo Star Wars spin-off



Following news that directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller had been fired from the untilted Han Solo Star Wars spin-off. Lucasfilm has announced Ron Howard is the new captain of the troubled production.

Howard has a long history with Lucasfilm. He starred alongside Harrison Ford (Han Solo) in George Lucas' American Graffiti and directed Willow. The Apollo 13 director was approached by the creator of Star Wars to direct The Phantom Menace:

"[George Lucas] didn’t necessarily want to direct them. He told me he had talked to Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, and me. I was the third one he spoke to. They all said the same thing: “George, you should do it!” I don’t think anybody wanted to follow-up that act at the time. It was an honor, but it would’ve been too daunting."

The Star Wars spin-off was only weeks away from completing principal photography. So, it'll be interesting to see how Howard steadies the ship and finishes the film in a manner matching Lucasfilms' vision.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Phil Lord and Chris Miller fired from Star Wars spin-off



Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have disembarked from the upcoming Han Solo Star Wars spin-off movie due for release May 2018. A new director will be announced soon.

“Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are talented filmmakers who have assembled an incredible cast and crew, but it’s become clear that we had different creative visions on this film, and we’ve decided to part ways. A new director will be announced soon,” said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm.

“Unfortunately, our vision and process weren’t aligned with our partners on this project. We normally aren’t fans of the phrase ‘creative differences’ but for once this cliché is true. We are really proud of the amazing and world-class work of our cast and crew,” stated Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

After Phil Lord and Christopher Miller took to the stage at Star Wars Celebration Europe, I was really looking forward to seeing them play in the Star Wars sandpit. The directors have a deft ability to take something overtly commercial and make it fun as exemplified in The LEGO Movie.

Bizarrely, the Han Solo spin-off has been filming since January. So, perhaps there's a tonal issue between the directors and Lucasfilm? It's worth noting Richard Donner was famously fired from Superman II and that turned out OK. Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger) and Ron Howard (Apollo 13) are frontrunners to take the helm of the troubled Star Wars production.

In related news. Colin Trevorrow's latest movie, The Book of Henry, has met with universal criticism and some fans are calling for the director to be replaced on Episode IX. Seemingly Star Wars is having growing pains at Disney. Josh Trank departed from an untitled spin-off and Gareth Edwards' Rogue One underwent extensive reshoots. The latter didn't turn out too shabby.

Who do you think should direct the Han Solo spin-off? Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Star Trek: Discovery explores new frontiers this Fall



Star Trek: Discovery, the delayed prequel series set a decade before the adventures of Kirk and Spock, premieres 24th September on CBS All Access. The first eight episodes will run from September through November. The series will resume in January 2018. This is to allow for further post-production on later episodes.

Fans can watch Star Trek: Discovery on Netflix outside the US. Whilst CBS may not be as enamoured with the Star Trek franchise as it once was - to the point of saturation during the Nineties. The delays, and Netflix's involvement, may elevate the sci-fi franchise back to heights enjoyed by its big screen counterpart with which it has no narrative connection.

Discovery stars Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter/Star Wars Rebels) as Captain Lorca and Sonequa Martin Green (The Walking Dead) as Michael Burnham.

The trailer had a Mass Effect vibe and piqued my interest. Will you be exploring brave new worlds with the crew of the Discovery? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Neill Blomkamp's Rakka starring Sigourney Weaver



Director Neill Blomkamp's Aliens sequel maybe on indefinite hiatus as Ridley Scott continues with his Alien prequel saga. However, Blomkamp's keeping busy with cinematic world building of his own.

Rakka, starring Sigourney Weaver, is a short film from Blomkamp's Oats Studios that sees the human race on the brink of extinction in the wake of an alien invasion.



The director has never shied away from political satire and this thematic subtext can be seen throughout his oeuvre from District 9 to Chappie. I'm interested to see where he goes with this next.

Carly Pope co-stars and DCTV fans will recognise her from the latest season of Arrow. Incidentally, Pope starred in Popular, a proto-Glee, alongside Wentworth Miller.

Blomkamp took to the stage at E3 to discuss distribution on Steam. Paid DLC, including 3D assets, will be made available for aspiring creatives to use. Movies as mods. Disruptive or indulgent? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Bat-Signal to shine over LA in memory of Adam West



One of my most endearing childhood memories from the 1970s was watching reruns of the 1960s Batman television series starring Adam West as the titular character.

Every Saturday morning I'd be sat in my folks' kitchen, with a bowl of Rice Krispies cereal and a collection of Corgi toys, excitedly watching Batman battle a menagerie of garish foes on a portable colour TV.



I was young enough not to be encumbered by matters of time nor fiction. Batman's adventures were of the here and now, and Gotham City was real. Whenever the phone rang, I wondered if it was the caped crusader?

Holy cycle calamity, Batman! Long summer evenings, after a day at primary school, were reserved for Batman adventures with childhood friends. My hooded coat, as worn by Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) on DCTV, doubled as a batcape much to my late mum's chagrin - it got caught more than once in the back wheel of my bike.

So, Adam West's passing from leukemia, aged 88, was personal. His Dark Knight stirred the detective within and a passion for problem solving. Batman formed part of an heroic trio including Doctor Who and The Six Million Dollar Man. Tonight the Bat-Signal will shine over LA in his memory.

Thank you, good sir. Goodnight, good knight. RIP Adam West.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Marvel's Spider-Man gameplay at E3



Marvel's Spider-Man gameplay footage was released during the PlayStation press conference at E3. The PS4 exclusive, seemingly channelling Uncharted and Arkham Knight, looks amazing and I'm hoping it'll evoke fond memories of playing Spider-Man 2.



The upcoming game was revealed at last year's E3. Sony's PlayStation press conference was good, if not stellar, this year. Horizon Zero Dawn will be getting new DLC in the form of The Frozen Wilds later this year. The lack of any update on The Last of Us Part II left a few fans underwhelmed. It remains to be seen if the company is holding back announcements for Gamescom this August.

Marvel's Spider-Man won't be released until 2018. Third-party developer Insomniac Games has an enviable track record with franchises including Spyro, Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive. So, it's welcome news the studio isn't going to rush release the game to coincide with Spider-Man: Homecoming this July.

Pre-order Marvel's Spider-Man for PS4 today.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Microsoft shuns VR as it unveils Xbox One X at E3



In a move echoing Apple's annual iPhone release cycle. Microsoft unveiled Xbox One X (codename Project Scorpio) during the company's Xbox E3 Briefing on Sunday. The new premium console joins, but does not replace, Xbox One and Xbox One S.

Matt Charlton shares his insights into the sleek Xbox One X and the direction Microsoft appears to be going with brand Xbox under the leadership of Phil Spencer:

"I see exactly where Microsoft are taking Xbox and it's extremely clever.

They are creating a single platform - Windows 10-based, with multiple tiers. They look to be heading down an Apple iPhone-based distribution model.

You can buy a game for Xbox knowing that it will work on your console, no matter which one you have, the more money you spend, the better graphics and performance you get.

Microsoft has moved to an annual release cycle where they bring out a new console with a new CPU and a new graphics card with more RAM, more storage and more power. The systems and ecosystem evolve with time, but you'll always be able to play the games you've bought. With the company bringing original Xbox games into the fold, it's now a cross-gen platform for anything ever released (as long as developers allow).

Game developers know the platform, they know DirectX and we don't have any of this stupidity where processor architectures change and development for one generation is completely redundant in the next. I remember reading that the PS3 was ridiculously hard to develop for. This stops that.

Different sized texture packs will ship with games, resolution and draw distances can be changed depending on spec, its no different from playing Starcraft 2 on a 4 year old laptop against playing it on an all-singing all-dancing £2000 desktop gaming rig.

Games might get a little bigger, but that's to be expected anyway. You still keep things simple by only having known hardware configurations and multiple tiers.

Also gives them the opportunity to increase their player base. Your frontrunners buy the latest consoles as they come out, the old console is still perfectly fine - they pass it on to a friend or a family member and they buy games and play.

Clever. Very clever.

It's a good time to be a gamer."


So, aside from the Xbox One X, which is garnering a mixed reaction due, primarily, to a price point of £449.99GBP when the new console is released on 7th November. The big takeaway from E3 was a dangerous lack of first-party exclusives, VR and an emphasis on indie developers. 42 games represented as a dull laundry list with BioWare's Anthem, a third-party title that deleteriously impacted Mass Effect: Andromeda's development, closing the presentation.

There was no mention of Rise of the Tomb Raider being enhanced for 4K on Xbox One X, which is disappointing given the superlative sequel was a timed exclusive and improved fidelity is available for PS4 Pro. And Halo was nowhere to be seen.

Will I get an Xbox One X? Yes. I already own a 4K UHD TV and enhanced fidelity is appealing. Plus, as Matt's already stated, all my existing Xbox games will be available to play out of the box from day-one. Something that neither Nintendo nor Sony offers.

Again, this E3 is Sony's to lose in terms of first-party exclusives and third-party marketing deals including Call of Duty: WWII, Destiny 2 and Star Wars Battlefront II. Unless Nintendo knocks it out of the park.

But, what do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Star Wars Battlefront II trailer at E3



A teaser trailer for Star Wars Battlefront II was shown during Star Wars Celebration Orlando last April. The teaser revealed that the single player campaign follows Inferno Squad, an Imperial special forces unit lead by Commander Iden Versio (Janina Gavankar), in the wake of the destruction of the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi.

Now, a full trailer drops during EA Play 2017 at E3. Fans finally get to see gameplay footage from the upcoming sequel to the 2015 video game franchise reboot. Unlike its predecessor, Battlefront II will traverse all three Star Wars trilogies.



Star Wars Battlefront II is out on 17th November for PS4, Xbox One and PC.